MEB editor Joe Ballard recently had the chance to pose some questions to Knoxville, TN alternative rockers Skytown Riot. They discuss the making of the band’s new EP Soul Or System, a memorable live experience with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm fame, potential full-length plans for 2014, and much more.
First off, congratulations on releasing Soul Or System to the masses! How does it feel to finally have it out there and what has the early response been like?
Thank you! We are thrilled to have Soul Or System available, and so far the response has been extremely positive.
Tell me a little bit about the recording process. Did you guys put each song together piece by piece or was it more of the “jam it out together” route?
In the past we would often just jam out on songs until everyone had worked out parts they were pleased with. Many bands do it that way, and for many it works really well. But we needed more composure in our process. For this EP we spent a lot more time developing hooks, writing melodies, and experimenting with arrangements than we ever had before. We recorded demo versions of several songs, essentially giving us a rough draft to work from. That gave everyone a chance to stew on ideas, make adjustments, and also saved us time and frustration in the studio.
You guys packed quite a lot of different musical styles into just six songs, yet you melded them together so well that it feels like you’ve all been together for a decade or more. Was it your intention to make the album so diverse or did it just kind of happen as the recording process went on?
Our goal was to have six unique songs that all sound like Skytown Riot. We knew we wanted a dance-rock track like “Misbehave”, and we all love the heavy-hitting tracks like “Runaway Princess” and “Soul Or System”. But honestly we just wrote a lot of songs and picked the ones that we felt would be the most memorable.
You’ve already shared the stage with the likes of Halestorm and Hoobastank and earlier this month you played the official album release show for Soul Or System. What’s been your most memorable show so far and what made it so special?
We always remember those bigger shows because of the bands we play with. When Lzzy Hale makes an entrance (and she DOES make an entrance) you simply can’t forget it. But when you’re opening for a national act you are usually playing for audiences that don’t know who you are. And it’s a fun challenge trying to win over a new audience. But our most memorable show (albeit recent) was the CD Release show you mentioned. It was a Thursday night, typically a tough night to play in Knoxville for rock bands, but the place was packed! We played with one of our favorite bands in the world, Oh No Fiasco. And the crowd was just amazing all night long.
Was there one specific artist or band you heard or saw live as a kid and thought, “Now that’s what I want to do with my life – making music”?
Jimi: Tool (saw them live in 2001).
Cody: Collective Soul (saw them live when I was 8 years old).
Jason: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Muse (saw them all on the same bill in Knoxville back in 2000).
Van: Wynton Marsalis (saw him perform when I was a middle school trumpet player).
You recorded a very unique rock version of the classic folk ballad “House of the Rising Sun” for Soul Or System. What made you choose this particular song to cover, and are there any other classics you’d like to cover in the future?
It’s hard for us to all agree on cover songs, but this one seemed like a no-brainer for some reason. Probably because it’s just a great song, and one that we had all played at some point in our lives, prior to being in this band. Honestly we haven’t really thought about what we would cover next. Maybe it’s time we took suggestions!
The album’s artwork is fantastic and, in my opinion, represents the title perfectly. Who designed the cover and how did you come in contact with him/her?
Thanks, we’re glad you like it! Actually, Van designed the cover art for this EP. Outside of the band he’s a photographer and does most of the graphic design work for us as well.
Another particularly impressive aspect of the EP is Mike Dearing’s production work. How did you guys first meet him and how influential was he in the album’s creation?
We met Mike back in 2010 after we won a local radio station’s Battle of the Bands. Part of the prize was some studio time at Lakeside Studios, where Mike has worked as an engineer and producer for over a decade. We only did one song with him back then, but the sound was unlike anything we had heard before. We kept in touch, and just last year when he started his own studio (HiFi Studios) we were the first band that he brought in.
Lyrically speaking, there are some interesting references to the darker side of fame, particularly in “Sensational” and “Runaway Princess”, and you guys have grown in leaps and bounds since completing your lineup in 2012. Are there any particular aspects of fame that you as a band fear, or just hope to avoid, or was it more fame in general that inspired those lyrics?
Fame isn’t something to fear, but it’s something that can eat you alive if you’re not ready for it. The references to fame in our music comment on that idea. Those that transition into fame over time probably handle it much better than those that are thrown right into it.
Since we’re getting close to that point on the calendar for “Album of the Year” lists, what have been some of your favorite albums released in 2013?
Biffy Clyro – Opposites
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Cage the Elephant – Melophobia
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
And finally, what’s in store for Skytown Riot in 2014? Lots of touring? Possibly recording a full-length album?
Yes, lots of touring! 2014 is already shaping up to be our biggest year so far. We would love to begin working on a full-length album as well, but there’s no telling when exactly we’ll get to start on it. That said, we’ve got a handful of songs that we’re anxious to record already!
A big thanks to Skytown Riot for taking some time out to answer our questions. You can check out the band’s new video for “The Afterglow” below and if you like what you hear, you can purchase their new Soul Or System EP on iTunes.
And finally, you can follow Skytown Riot through the following links: